Keeping A Business In Balance
For Yuni Shiramizu , the suspense of putting something on a scale to see how much it weighs is a thrill.
“Everybody,” she says, “needs a scale.”
Her business, Young Scale Company, sells scales to banks, grocery stores and the construction industry. Supermarket checkout counters have scales, and before it’s put out for sale, the stores’ food, such as seafood and steaks, is weighed and packaged. Concrete and cement need to be weighed. Hospitals have medical scales. The airport weighs bags, and if luggage is more than 50 pounds, travelers get charged.
“Depending on how accurate your scale is, you either lose money or make money,” notes Shiramizu.
Her clients include Times, Safeway, Don Quijote, Kapiolani Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, Hawaiian Cement, First Hawaiian Bank, Bank of Hawaii and American Savings Bank.
The Kaimuki resident expresses deep appreciation for her family, employees and customers for the success of her business.
“I always try to do what is best for my customer, so the challenge is to prevent the unforeseen,” says Shiramizu. “I try to make sure to take care of my employees and my customers. I promised (former owner) Mr. Young that I’d keep the business name and run it the way he would want it run.”
Little did Shiramizu know that she’d someday be a business owner when she was working as a waitress at Wailana Coffee House where the Young Scale owner, whom she calls Mr. Young, ate breakfast often. Mr. Young had a job opening, and he said as long as Shiramizu could type, she could do the job. She started in 1987 as a bookkeeper, and eventually expressed interest in someday owning her own business.
“I asked Mr. Young to give me a chance to buy the business from him when he was thinking of retiring,” Shiramizu recalls. “He told me to ask him in another year to see if I was still interested. A year passed and I wasn’t interested because English was a second language to me, and I’d have to learn the scale language plus the technical side too. So the next year, he asked me if I was ready because he was ready to retire. I was not ready, but I told him I was. I wasn’t all that comfortable with the idea, and I didn’t have the money. But I thought if I don’t take this chance maybe there won’t be another one.”
With the support of her family and a second mortgage, she took over the business in 1991. At that time, there was a bookkeeper, a salesperson and one service technician in addition to the owner. Shiramizu needed someone to help, so she kept Mr. Young on as an employee until he decided not to do it anymore in 2006.
“I kept the key people,” she notes. “They worked hard, and I asked them to trust me even though I didn’t know what I was doing yet. I had to make sales, so I learned more about the business very fast.”
She moved the shop from a 680-square-foot space to a 1,600 square-foot shop with a wraparound display window, and she expanded the inventory. She now has six employees. Her husband Neal, a former Aloha Airlines worker, started working with her in the business recently.
“It’s actually made our relationship better because now he knows what I go through,” she explains.
The couple has three children: Harold, Christopher and Sean.
With a passion for helping others, her community service includes helping non-profits that may need a scale for an event by letting them use one free. Or if students have a project they need to complete, she tries to provide one for short-term use.
Shiramizu - who is the fifth of six children raised by a single mother, as her father died when she was 3 years old - immigrated to Hawaii from Taegu, Korea, in 1977.
“America is the only country where, if you do your best, be honest and work hard, it will pay off,” says Shiramizu, who was recently selected as the Hawaii Korean Chamber of Commerce 2007 Entrepreneur of the Year.
One of her future goals for the company is to provide scholarships for her employees’children, and for the community.
Young Scale Company is located at 3402 Waialae Ave. The hours of operation are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 733-0788 or log onto www.youngscale.com
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